The Art of the Contemporary Anti-Racist American Poem: ‘In-Between Spaces,’ Exploding Conventions, and Listening as Form
Stahlman, Gabrielle Bates
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In this essay I describe and demonstrate, using close readings of Roger Reeves’ “The Mare of Money,” Natasha Tretheway’s “Enlightenment,” and a section of Martha Collins’ Blue Front, defining characteristics of successful contemporary anti-racist American poems. Success, in this context, means the poems create Bhabhian “in-between spaces,” explode conventions, and evoke emotions that assist anti-racist efforts. While these are by no means the only successful anti-racist poems written in the last few years, Reeves, Tretheway, and Collins provide ample evidence to debunk a pervasive myth regarding poetry and race: the myth that racial content and the subversion of convention are mutually exclusive. This essay culminates in a list of common tropes which I hope will be a useful resource and starting point for white poets wanting to engage with racial injustice on the page without proliferating or perpetrating racist ideas.
- English